German car manufacturers blamed for breaching EU competition rules

German car manufacturers blamed for breaching EU competition rules

The European Commission has informed BMW, Daimler and VW of its preliminary view that they participated in a collusive scheme from 2006 to 2014, in breach of EU competition rules, to limit the development and roll-out of emission cleaning technology for new diesel and petrol passenger cars sold in Europe. This collusion occurred in the framework of the car manufacturers’ so-called “circle of five” technical meetings.

In particular, the Commission has concerns regarding the (i) Selective catalytic reduction ('SCR') systems to reduce harmful nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions of diesel passenger cars through the injection of urea (also called “AdBlue”) in the exhaust gas streamand (ii) the 'Otto' particle filters ('OPF') to reduce harmful particle emissions from the exhaust gases of petrol passenger cars with direct injection.

According to the Commission, BMW, Daimler and VW coordinated to avoid, or at least to delay, the introduction of these technologies and to remove uncertainty about their future market conduct.

"Companies can cooperate in many ways to improve the quality of their products. However, EU competition rules do not allow them to collude on exactly the opposite: not to improve their products, not to compete on quality,” said Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy.  

“We are concerned that this is what happened in this case and that Daimler, VW and BMW may have broken EU competition rules. As a result, European consumers may have been denied the opportunity to buy cars with the best available technology. The three car manufacturers now have the opportunity to respond to our findings."

In October 2017, the Commission carried out inspections at the premises of BMW, Daimler, Volkswagen and Audi in Germany, as part of its initial inquiries into possible collusion between car manufacturers on the technological development of passenger cars. The Commission opened an in-depth investigation in September 2018.

The Commission's preliminary view, presented in a Statement of Objections, is a formal step in its investigations into suspected violations of EU antitrust rules. 

The Brussels Times

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